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How poachers' snares have become death traps for big cats in India


India is home to three of the most charismatic big cats - the Bengal Tiger, the Asiatic Lion and the Indian Leopard. Ironically the big cats, predators by nature, are under threat today.

They face innumerable threats in the wild. From poaching, habitat loss, human-animal conflicts, to illegal wildlife trade, these predators are the victims today.

Representational Image

The big cats, especially Tigers have been in the crosshair for centuries and every time we hear the news of a tiger death we believe it to be the last incident and wish it not to happen again.

The reason behind such expectation is the continuous efforts of the tiger conservation like Save Tiger, Project Tiger and several wildlife orgnisations which work round the clock to preserve the endangered species.

While the focus is now on anti-poaching drives in most forests of India. Poachers that work like an organisation, are heavily armed and carry the latest technological tools to track and kill animals. But the latest find shows that the traditional methods are all not forgotten.

In the last nine years, 24 tigers and 114 leopards have suffered slow, agonising deaths due to these traps.

According to Wildlife Protection Society of India, in Maharashtra alone, 14 leopards and three tigers died due to wire snares. Another four leopards and one tiger were injured in the last 10 years. The highest number of big cats 26 leopard and three tigers died in Uttarakhand.

At least 13 leopards were injured. Five tigers were killed and one injured by wire snares in Madhya Pradesh, the highest in a state in the last decade.

Snares nothing more than a piece of wire fashioned into a smooth noose in less than three minutes, it is used to poach deer, wild pigs, boars and hares. Ironically, the very solar fences lined up on park boundaries to prevent human-wildlife conflicts are now being used to poach animals. Used primarily for bush meat, snares along with traps are our wildlife's silent killers.

As snares can maim or kill any animal that activates them wild Tigers are dealt a double blow, as the prey base they need to survive and reproduce are reduced also.

Easy to make from widely available material such as bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are deadly traps that are fast becoming the plague of Asias forests.

Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade and demand for illegal wildlife products across Asia, poachers are increasingly using snares to trap wild tigers, elephants, leopards and other wildlife, it says.

Conservationists are currently in a losing battle against the poachers and hunters using the traps. They are easy to use and cheap, compared to the patrols used to find them, which are proving to be expensive and ineffective.

Only solution is stricter laws against those found using or possessing the deadly trap, along with harsher punishments.

India is home to more than 70 per cent of tigers in the world.

Indias tiger population grew to 2,226 in 2014 from a dwindling number of 1,411 in 2006.

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